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Create DateApril 26, 2016

Tethering a fly for stationary flight allows for exquisite control of its sensory input, such as visual or olfactory stimuli or a punishing infrared laser beam. A torque meter measures the turning attempts of the tethered fly around its vertical body axis. By punishing, say, left turning attempts (in a homogeneous environment), one can train a fly to restrict its behaviour to right turning attempts. It was recently discovered that this form of operant conditioning (called operant self-learning), may constitute a form of motor learning in Drosophila. Previous work had shown that Protein Kinase C (PKC) and the transcription factor dFoxP were specifically involved in self-learning, but not in other forms of learning. These molecules are specifically involved in various forms of motor learning in other animals, such as compulsive biting in Aplysia, song-learning in birds, procedural learning in mice or language acquisition in humans. Here we describe our efforts to decipher which PKC gene is involved in self-learning in Drosophila. We also provide evidence that motorneurons may be one part of the neuronal network modified during self-learning experiments. The collected evidence is reminiscent of one of the simplest, clinically relevant forms of motor learning in humans, operant reflex conditioning, which also relies on motorneuron plasticity.

Posted on  at 15:19